Thank you for Save Music in Chinatown 11: Rikk Agnew Band, Ford Madox Ford, Rough Kids, Florida Mistakes

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My friend Daryl said that our eleventh Save Music in Chinatown show might have been his favorite one so far. And who am I to argue with a guy who holds down the fort at RazorCake magazine and KCHUNG?

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Of course Daryl and Gabie at KCHUNG are two friends who always carve out time from their radio shows to help us get the word out. I think it’s really cool that Gabie’s Crystalline Morphologies program is not only scheduled early enough that Eloise can go on the air, but is also archived for streaming and downloading.

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We get help from so many friends. There’s also Cyrano and Lotus (a.k.a. Steve and Max) at KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour. On their show, we had Rikk Agnew on the air to pick songs from the great new Rikk Agnew Band LP, and vintage solo stuff, Adolescents, and Christian Death, and share Hong Kong Cafe anecdotes from his storied punk rock life, too. Super cool!

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At the show it itself, we saw a lot of old friends coming out to support the cause. There was LP3 and Carrie. Louie played for us with Evil Hearted You way back when and will return with LP3 & The Tragedy sooner than later.

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Bob Forrest has played for us twice, solo at our first show ever and then with The Bicycle Thief. Holy cow, I can’t believe that reunion happened at one of our little shows. Were you there?

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And how about longtime supporters Lisa Fancher from Frontier Records and David O. Jones from Alice Bag Band, Carnage Asada, Deadbeats, and a bunch of other cool projects coming out early enough to see Rough Kids?smic11-rough2

More old and new friends: Paul from Rough Kids with Paul and Nick from Escape Artist. Nick played for us in FourEyedFour and will come back with 16 Again one of these days!smic11-roughflyboys

There was an Alice Bag sighting, too. How rad was it for her to come out to Chinatown and say hi to Chip, who was co-headlining our show with Ford Madox Ford. Decades ago, they used to play in the Bags and Dils, respectively, right across the courtyard at the Hong Kong Cafe!

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I was especially happy to see my friend Jaime not only get time off from work to attend the show but jump on stage to sing with the Rikk Agnew Band. When I was in college, I used to go to the Anti-Club almost every weekend to see him play with the Chemical People on bills with ALL and Big Drill Car.

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After seeing him so often at shows and then Hollywood Book and Poster we became friends, breaking the barrier between stage (even ones a foot tall) and crowd. One small step on the way to putting on these benefit shows…

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Of course, there was my good friend Nate who helps behind the scenes of every single show. Although he’s elusive like Bigfoot, this time I got a blurry picture of him with Chip and Scott from Ford Madox Ford. But how did I miss photos of Vicki, Horace, and Clare–the latter two all the way from London?smic11-chipnatecrew

Besides being excited and grateful to the Florida Mistakes, Rough Kids, Ford Madox Ford, and Rikk Agnew Band and everyone who showed up, I don’t have a real story to tell except that a lot of people out there want to make a difference and help out in some way.

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I don’t have a radio show, play in a band, release records, or make awesome cookies. But if I can help those people get together to help kids in Chinatown receive music education at their public school, what can you do? What difference can you make?

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Thanks again to the Grand Star, the bands, the bake sale crew, raffle donors, everyone who came, and everyone who spread the word. We’ll do it again at the Grand Star on Sunday, May 7 and be ready for some top-shelf garage punk rock ‘n’ roll…

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Best blurry picture ^ v Gung hay fat choy!

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Save Music in Chinatown 11 and Ice Cream with Rikk Agnew

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I was on my way to meet Rikk Agnew at Scoops in Chinatown, when I got a text from him saying that he doesn’t do ice cream. Of course not, it suddenly occurred to me. How could the key member of Adolescents, Social Distortion, Christian Death, D.I., and so many other gnarly bands be seen in public eating something ridiculous like an ice cream cone? Oh man.

Then I replied, adding that Scoops has non-dairy options, and he was down. Whew! It turns out that Rikk, who has shaped the sounds of punk, hardcore, and goth, is a total sweetheart who doesn’t like dairy but loves nothing more than eating ice cream with families and is down for playing a benefit to help support for music education for elementary school kids in Chinatown.

Rikk has also just released a kickass new album called Learn.

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It seems like you’re genuinely having a blast singing and playing on Learn. After being an underground musician for 40 years, is it still just as much fun as it ever was?
Oh, yes. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s got to be fun first.

But after so many bands and all the ups and downs, it would be so easy to be jaded or bored or over it.
For most bands, it stops being fun when they get too concerned with being competitive, making it to the top, making money, and all that stuff. That doesn’t mix with art and music as far as I’m concerned, but it’s not like I’m going to turn down a million dollar check…

That would be a byproduct and not the purpose.
Thank you. Very well said. That’s not the reason at all.

So are you a machine who automatically cranks out song? Are you addicted to the process of working on them? Do you have a lot to say? How have you kept going for decades?
Well, it sounds strange but the only way I can describe it is that I have a connection to the cosmos, the muses, and the universe. The beats, the pulses–they come down to me. I can’t sit and write a song. It doesn’t work that way. It just hits me.

So does your brain catch hold of a melody? A lyric?
Actually, the whole thing just flows in.

The words, too?
Just the music. The words are a whole separate thing. Words are usually personal politics and everyday experiences that affect me emotionally. I’m a very emotional person.

Whether commenting on Kelly Thomas being beaten by cops in Fullerton or changing the world, I can tell the content matters to you.
It’s mostly experiences that I transform into poetry. I like to use a lot of tongue-in-cheek words and little excerpts from other peoples’ songs, like The Beatles and stuff. Usually, I put it together phonetically like a puzzle before trying to make a stream of a story.

There’s also a sense of playfulness with your spelling as well as your tone. I feel like you’re pushing people’s buttons as much as you’re getting on a soapbox.
Yes, and I like to create my own spelling of words. My brother Frank is the same way. We do it because it helps us to remember things.

Isn’t he connected to the cosmos in a different way? Isn’t he an astronomer or something?
Oh, that’s Alfie. He and a team of three other PhDs at Cal State Fullerton have been working quite a long time on the theory of gravitational waves that Einstein had set out to prove almost exactly 100 years ago. When they broke through recently, it made world news and I’m so proud of him.

Maybe there will be a star or something named after you!
Maybe!

Back to “I Can’t Change The World,” I was wondering who is the “we” that you’re singing to. People in bands? People in the crowd? Parents?
Basically everybody on the planet. I’ve belonged to this thing called Nichiren Shoshu of American and been a Buddhist since 1988 or 1989 and we believe in this thing called kosen-rufu. It’s a theory–well, I think it’s real–that if everyone in the world took one smile or be positive for just one second, the world world miraculously heal itself because Mother Earth is a living creature. We’re in a symbiotic relationship with her.

That’s a big audience, but you’re not going to reach everyone with that album cover! Where did you find those intense portraits?
Originally the album cover was just going to be a picture of my face in red and black, but the overseas booking agency said that the album needed something more intense. I thought, okay fine. That was five years ago and this picture will get people’s attention.

I was looking up Krokodil on the Internet, and was under the impression that the person was suffering from Krokodil abuse. But then I dug deeper and found out it was caused by a virus caused by manmade toxins in the environment. But whether it was drug induced or created by toxins, it is still a shocking statement to say “Learn.” If anyone wants to figure out why, they can read the lyrics or talk to me. I’ll explain it.

How did Lisa from Frontier react when you told her about the concept?
She backs me up on it and believes in me. It’s like what punk was originally. We weren’t out to be nice or pretty. We wanted to shock and get attention. And then give the message. My message is always positive, even if it sounds like I’m bitching or angry. My modus operandi is to get people to be positive or, as Bill and Ted would say, be excellent to each other.

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So you have the Rikk Agnew Band, which reminds me of early Adolescents and your All By Myself solo record, but you also play death rock with the Gitane Demone Quartet and what else?
I’m in five bands now! One of the others is called Ann B. Davis, with Casey Chaos from Amen who was also the bass player for Christian Death during the reunion. And then there’s the original bass player James McGearty from the Only Theatre of Pain lineup and we had George, but he’s a policeman in St. Louis and the commuting and work were just too much. We parted ways with him and now we have Hoss, the drummer who played with Mondo Generator. We’re recording an EP and then there’s going to be an album and then we’ll go out and blast it out there. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the band Amen but they were like Korn, Slipknot, and that sort of thing. I was in the band in the mid ’90s, but now we’re taking that sort of music and mixing it with Gothic deathrock. Good songs, amazing stuff.

The other two bands?
I’m in a band called The Only Theatre of Pain, which is kind of a tribute to the album with a singer called Steve Skeletal who’s a 6’5″ version of Rozz. We do the album and songs from back then so I’m in my own tribute band. They asked me to do it and I said, why not? And then I recently joined the Deadbeats. That’s a dream come true for me. I used to watch them in the ’70s at The Masque. The new double album is great. It’s a unique thing we’ve got going on with a unique stage show, too.

Playing in all those bands–your brain must on fire right now.
The nice things about being in multiple bands is you have multiple outlets.

One of your best-known songs is about living in Orange County. So when did you come to L.A.?
About three and half years ago. I’ve wanted to since the ’70s. We’d come up here and hang out for weeks at a time at the Masque with Brendan Mullen and the Controllers, or hang with Gerber or Jane Drano, but I never had the confidence that I’d make enough money to stay. Hung out frequently at the Church in South Bay for a spell.

Do you think L.A. is still good for being in bands with all the gentrification going on?
Yeah, and it always will be. It isn’t the location as much as it is the spirit and the people. And for people like Gitane, myself, and others who’ve survived, we’re not above anything. We used to play the Santa Monica Civic or Palladium and now we play little places Cafe NELA, but it’s fun. If we didn’t do it, I don’t know what else I would do! There are so many punks who got into acting like Lee Ving or got PhDs like Milo or Greg Graffin, My Brother Alfie, but they’re still doing it. Why? Because there isn’t anything more fun to do and they feel the same way.

And you can make a difference, too.
Yes.

I’m glad you include lyrics because they’re really smart. It’s punk that an adult can listen to, but it’s still bratty.
I have an inner child that’s in me that never leaves.

Does your daughter listen to your music?
She was assistant engineer for the Learn LP. She joins me onstage to sing “Amoeba” sometimes and has a blast doing it! But I almost lost her this past August when she was in a bad car accident. She’s healing up pretty well, but you know how it feels to be a parent.

I’m really proud of my daughter. She’s a great artist and an amazing singer. She’s been working for Disney for a while and has other jobs on the side, but she’s a really, really good person, a heart of gold. I couldn’t ask for a better child.

If our children aren’t creative and rebellious, we’re all screwed!
Someone interviewed Tony about that song “I Hate Children” and he laughed and said, “I love children. Children are our future.” It was a personal politic thing about begin the oldest boy taking care of four rugrat siblings when his mom was an alcoholic and his dad was nowhere to be found back then.

Every few Adolescent shows, I’ll hear him tell the audience why they don’t play that song. I love it when he explains that.
And he should. I love interacting at shows. Whether I’m on a big stage or a little one, there is no dividing line and if someone says something, I’ll answer.

I think it’s great how you stay in touch with old bandmates and the new record is on Frontier. It’s amazing and cool and telling that there’s so much love from your past instead of burned bridges.
We all go through our periods, but if you ask any of the punks who’ve been around and they’ll tell you that it’s all about love. It’s like Johnny Rotten sang in “Fodderstompf”: “We only wanted to be loved.” Everyone took it like he was being a smartass but he meant it. I just finished reading his book, Anger Is An Energy, and it’s amazing. He’s one of my heroes.

Like him, you have explored different genres and defied fans when you easily could have kept making the same type of music.
You have to satisfy yourself first. If you don’t, you’ll become a slave to the people and you won’t be where you should be. Even if it makes a lot of people scratch their heads and wonder, “What happened?” As an artist you get bored doing the same thing, so you jump ahead not for competitive purposes but just for fun. It feels like you’re on a mission to keep things rolling and keep perpetuating.

So are you going to tour to support the Rikk Agnew Band album?
Oh yes. I want to do the world.

Is it hard getting all five members to take time off and commit to it?
They’re great and they’re faithful and I want to be on the road for most of 2017 to promote the album. And if they can’t take time off work to make it to Europe or wherever, I have people there who can and they’re all good with it and won’t feel insulted. I’m lucky.

Will you play stuff from all of your bands, as you’ve been doing, or will you just play the new stuff?
Well, more of the new stuff because we’re promoting the album but we’ll also play longer sets. I like to say that we’re like a wedding band because we play old songs, new songs, borrowed songs, and blue songs from the Blue Album.

What do you think about a playing matinee that is not only for music education at the public elementary school but one that will have little kids in the audience?
Well, of course! They can witness who and where the funding comes from firsthand (an education in itself–public relations, organization, hands-on assistance even!) as well as have the best experience of the whole process. The excitement and spirit of the music. The bands. The people. And the interaction between the performers and kids is such healthy and different dynamic. Lots of love, lots of fun.

Is there anything cool about playing in Chinatown? Can you share any feelings or memories of the plaza where so many cool and key shows happened?
There’s everything cool about playing in Chinatown: It’s cultural, festive, and fun. Great feelings, too,

Too many memories and shows to remember but: The Plastics from Japan in 1980 at Madame Wong’s and sitting outside on the curb drinking beer and smoking weed across from Madame Wong’s when Robert Fripp did His Fripptronix thang.

And shows at the Hong Kong Cafe: The Germs – Didn’t get in, got arrested outside by an LAPD undercover sting sweep that nabbed Dez Cadena, Janet Housden, and other punks. I was on many hits of acid! Aaargh!

The Slashers – My band at that time was scheduled to play but we were frying way too hard to play with the Outsiders, The Humans, and an opener.

Adolescents – We played there a couple times, once on Halloween with the Stingers, Speed Queens, and others. Agent Orange and I forgot who else, it was the first time I saw anyone do a stage dive (1978-1979). The OG diver was a blonde waif of a boy that was barefoot and insane looking: Tony Bones a.k.a. Cadena a.k.a. Bee.

Nervous Gender – With Phranc and Don Bolles on board, they were strangest sounding band at that point–more so than the Screamers or DEVO.

El Duce- I first met him there, He was doing an impromptu manifesto post show behind a podium in the back room area, We all gathered, speechless.

I could go on, but wait and read that chapter in my book.

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Get more information at the Facebook event page and ticketing page on Eventbrite. Seeya there!

 

Save Music in Chinatown 8, before and after

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Save Music in Chinatown 8 took place a couple of weeks ago at the Grand Star, but it feels like just happened.  Seeing The Crowd at Fitzgerald’s in Huntington Beach (above) and Bad Cop/Bad Cop in Pomona (below) last weekend might have something to do with that. Bands take note: If you thought I went to a lot of your shows before you played one of our benefits, you won’t be getting rid of me afterward.

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But back to Save Music in Chinatown 8. Placing flyers at record stores and on friends’ refrigerators all over town and posting about the shows incessantly on Facebook–you never know when one thing will actually lead to another. After writing about our gig with the Adolescents, Gears, and Watt, Dennis Walsh commented, “Why haven’t The Crowd played one of these shows?” I asked him to introduce me and he replied, “I’m the drummer!”

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I’d already been stalking The Crowd for years and started saying hi to Dennis whenever they’d play Alex’s Bar. But then last summer, I saw him hanging out with Channel Three (above) and BC/BC (blurry and below) who just played with the Adolescents and Weirdos at the Roxy. The right place, the right time, just like the song goes. We agreed that it would be rad if The Crowd, FourEyedFour (another one of Dennis’s bands), and BC/BC played for us.

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All the bands were as awesome as they were nice. Bombón (who I immediately contacted after seeing them play a RazorCake show at Pehrspace) pulled aside their last kid-sized cat shirt for Eloise and made everyone smile and dance with their DIY surf sounds. FourEyedFour sounded as amazing as their self-released CD, really smart and slightly psychedelic pop with a ton of punch.

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Bad Cop/Bad Cop are a dynamite live band with massive hooks, killer harmonies, and so much upside. It’s a good thing we got them right before they took off for Europe to tour with Snuff… (Aaron Brown, a member of the BC/BC gang as well as an old friend, made an animalistic rock ‘n’ roll flyer for us, too.)

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The Crowd’s set was raging and full of angst and slurred lyrics and banter, and could have taken place at a dive bar instead of an afternoon matinee. And I thought it was great. Our idea has always been to have all-ages shows that kids attend but never to have kiddie shows. How great were the legendary Beach Blvd. and ROTR Vol. 1 comp contributors and how cool was it to have Tony Cadena sing “Liberty” with them? Yet another great Tony moment at Save Music in Chinatown to file away…

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When Eloise started attending Castelar Elementary as a kindergartner, Wendy and I had no idea we would start organizing benefit concerts or that we would be doing it this long. But with help from parents who run the bake sale, friends who donate to the raffle, and all the selfless bands who volunteer to play for us, we can not only help keep the defunded music program going but start a scene. How cool is it to build on the legacy of the old Hong Kong Café and Madame Wong’s? How great it it for kids to be included?

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And now that Eloise is a big second grader, she has become more involved in our shows than ever. In addition to making a flyer, she introduced all the bands, danced in the front row for all of them, and even chose records to play on our friend Daryl’s KCHUNG radio program to promote the show.

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Sometimes I stress about our shows not getting enough attention (what part of punk matinees with a bake sale to help kids in Chinatown isn’t awesome?) or big enough crowds for the bands (the lineups are way too good for our humble venue). But in the end they’re always perfect: nothing but old and new friends and family. Hope to see you at the next one in the spring.

Save Music in Chinatown 8 preview/interview with Eloise

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Making sure students at an inner-city public school get music education is a worthy enough reason to put on shows, but my wife Wendy and I think it’s important that children are able to attend and participate as well. It’s awesome that our second-grade daughter sees bands carry their own gear into a small venue and play their hearts out for us.

Eloise is also exposed to DIY culture, and has made and distributed flyers and posters, gone on radio shows to promote the cause, and contributed to a zine as well. Lately, she’s been talking about forming a band with her cousins or friends and playing one of the shows. I told her that will require a lot of work before it can happen, but for now she can help out with a short Q&A…

Why should people go to Save Music in Chinatown 8?
Because it helps raise money for the music program at my school. And it has awesome bands and a yummy bake sale. But if you can’t handle loud music, stay home and chill.

Tell me more about the music.
It’s loud and rocking!

But can you dance to it?
Yes, it’s very easy to dance to. Don’t be afraid to pogo!

Isn’t that a Gears song?
Yeah!

They were so great at our sixth show. Who are some of your other favorite bands that have played for us?
Dengue Fever, California, Baja Bugs, Adolescents, Upset, Bob Forrest and the Bicycle Thief–I love them all. I could tell that even the calm ones were really feeling it. They’re all so cool and nice. I look forward to Bombón, The Crowd, FourEyedFour, and Bad Cop/Bad Cop.

Got any favorite Crowd songs that you want to hear at the upcoming show?
“Right Time” and “Hear it on the Radio.” I also hope Bombón plays “La Playa”!

 

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Tell me about the flyer you made for the show.
I love drawing and I love making posters for Save Music in Chinatown. I get to draw monster cats, cats playing guitar, or even Bruce Lee holding a guitar.

Where did you get the idea for the Bruce Lee artwork?
I know that a lot of people in Chinatown love him.

Do you like him?
I love him, too. He’s cool and there’s a statue of him outside the Grand Star. I want to take pictures with the bands there, but it will be after the show because I don’t want to miss any music!

Do you think that enough kids attend our shows?
No, because the only ones I see are my friends and cousins.

I kinda like how I see so many friends and family at the shows.
But other people should go, too!

But wouldn’t kids rather  be watching videos on YouTube or going to Disney on Ice or something instead of checking out a punk rock show?
No way! That’s lame. You should be listening to awesome music and dancing around with friends.

Any tips for young people who are going for the first time?
They should buy earplugs from us. They’re only a dollar and all of the money we make goes to our school.

What are some other bands you’d like to see play our show in the future?
The Go-Go’s, Shonen Knife, Dum Dum Girls, X, AC/DC, Redd Kross, and OFF!

Anything else you want to add?
See you in the pit, but don’t get run over!

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Clockwise from top left: Rachel Haden, Upset, Nimol from Dengue Fever and Tony from Adolescents

Get the latest info on Save Music in Chinatown 8 from the Facebook event page and save some dough by getting advance tickets via Eventbrite.

Save Music in Chinatown 7 photos by Ben Clark

smic7-3I’ve already shared my photos (above) and thoughts on our most recent benefit, and you can check them out at imprintculturelab.com. But then I received images from my photographer friend Ben Clark (maybe you’ve been checking out his images all over the new Jabberjaw coffee table book) and they are worth sharing, too.

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While digital photography has made it easy for hacks like me to take pretty good photos, there’s no substitute for a skilled photography. Rachel’s friends and family sitting on the floor, Nate behind the soundboard–Ben really conveys what the room feels like and doesn’t just take band pics.

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The California image below reminds me of Joe Strummer… And Adam’s Saccharine Trust shirt! Does he break that out for special occasions or wear it all the time?

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Dustin’s expression in this image below is amazing–probably one of the few times he wasn’t smiling during the set!

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How great are Upset? How cool is it that you can see the girls rocking out in front. They raged! Before talking a little bit about our cause and introducing the band, I got to say, “Girls in front!”

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Steve Soto is a legend who has played with so many excellent bands: Adolescents, Agent Orange, Manic Hispanic, 22 Jacks, Punk Rock Karaoke… But his solo songs are simply gorgeous and to see him on an empty stage is actually a little jarring.

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How great are Sean & Zander? And who knew what their stripped-down take on roots and Americana would appeal to the kids so much?

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Proof that the kids love Sean & Zander.

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Thanks to Ben, who doesn’t go to as many shows as he used to but set aside time to attend ours. And all the musicians, supporters, attendees, and friends who helped to make it happen. Looking forward to our next benefit in January!

Why Save Music in Chinatown 7 is my next perfect day

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In a couple of weekends, we’ll be hosting our seventh Save Music in Chinatown show. Some things haven’t changed since Wendy and I came up with the harebrained idea to try organizing all-ages benefit matinee concerts to raise money for the defunded music education program at our daughter’s public elementary school.

• Castelar still must raise $50,000 annually to pay for music classes for the kids. Our shows can’t pay for all of it but we can make a difference, raise awareness, and foster a community.
• The lineups are stellar, our stash of raffle prizes is amazing, and the bake sale has achieved legend status.
• We still rely almost entirely on word of mouth and I still stress out and wonder when people will start buying tickets, but it always turns out great. (Doesn’t it?)

But some things have changed, too.

• We’ll always appreciate Human Resources for giving us a place to start and grow as well as a connection to the neighborhood’s awesome art scene, but finding a new home at the Grand Star is a step toward carrying on the punk rock heritage and adding to the tradition of the Hong Kong Café and Madame Wong’s.
• We’ve amassed a small-but-dedicated army of friends in awesome bands, rad venues, and DIY media outlets that love the history of punk rock in Chinatown and help us pay tribute to it while helping the local kids.
• Personally, Save Music in Chinatown has been a shift from making things on a printed page to making things happen in real life, but I’m in the process of making a Save Music in Chinatown zine in time for our next show!

I’ve stated this before and I still believe it so I’ll repeat it. When we have a Save Music in Chinatown gig, we’re really make my perfect day a reality (sorta like the ones we used to print in Giant Robot mag). Waking up late and rolling out on a Sunday afternoon when there’s free metered or cheap parking available, seeing a bunch of amazing bands for a bargain price with killer snacks and quality coffee, and being able to take kids if they can handle it. Seeing friends and family who don’t go to as many shows as they used to because of stinky, late night venues full of assholes and poseurs. Being done around 6:00 p.m. so you can grab some noodles for dinner before getting home at a decent hour and being ready to get up early on Monday.

And not only are we helping mostly immigrant kids at an inner city school receive music education, but we are exposing the handful that show up to DIY culture. They get that music isn’t just played by rock stars or rappers at Staples Center but by regular folks who lug their own stuff around and play on tiny stages for friends. And if even lame parents can be part of something cool, why can’t they?

Please check out and share the event page on Facebook and ticketing information at Eventbrite, and hope to see you in Chinatown on Sunday, September 27. Thanks for the support and hit me up if you have any questions!

Below, clockwise from top left: Elvis, Tony from The Adolescents, Donut Friend, Margaret Cho, Scoops Chinatown, and Dan from The Adolescents and Dennis from The Crowd are down with the cause.

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Save Music in Chinatown 6 photo dump with Dengue Fever, Birdstriking, Chui Wan, and Deadly Cradle Death at the Grand Star

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I’m fiinally clearing out the SD card after last Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown 6 benefit matinee at the Grand Star, so here are some of the better photos. Unfortunately, I’m going to stick you with some words as well

The bill was unbelievable; we had two bands from China, Birdstriking and Chui Wan (above), as well as Deadly Cradle Death (a noisy side project featuring members of each band) and headliners Dengue Fever. Our new location was unbelievable, too. It was a second story spot in the heart of Chinatown with just good enough sound, a small stage, low ceiling, and bar for those who choose to drink. Right outside we were able to take photos by the Bruce Lee statue!

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Deadly Cradle Death features Liu Xinyu from Chui Wan and Hefan from Birdstriking. The duo’s music super heavy and dark and has a little bit of hip hop tucked in there. At the tail end of a month-long tour of the U.S., having their friends in Birdstriking join for a few shows must have been a kick in the ass for Chui Wan, and this set was a real bonus for us.

Also note the poster showing a rough, black and white version of the show flyer featuring cool art by Miran Kim. How cool was my friend in France to let us use her painting to help kids in Chinatown?

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In case you haven’t been paying attention, this was our sixth show. The bands have ranged from arty to punk to psychedelic with the latest lineup, but the killer bake sale has been a constant.

The shows have also become a real community, with familiar faces of friends, family, and music lovers of all kinds. Above is filmmaker Dave Travis, who runs Cafe NELA, and artist Vicki Berndt. They are among the many very cool people who attend all the shows and donate awesome stuff to our raffle, and I should have taken a dozen more photos of pals who support the cause like that. They’re the best. smic6d-chuiwanback

Sometimes it takes seeing a band two nights in a row to really get them, and I’m really glad I went out to see Chui Wan at NELA the night before. Chui Wan has a complex music vibe with a rhythm section that has a real angular post punk edge like Public Image Limited or Gang of Four. They’re really dark and heavy but also fun and the live show is mind-blowing.

The band played songs off its just-released, self-titled LP that you should track down. If you missed the tour, look for it (and other rad music from Chinese bands) at faroutdistantsounds.com.

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Birdstriking were another ripping live band. I had been intrigued by the fact that the touring unit would feature two members of one of my favorite Beijing bands, Carsick Cars, but now I like Birdstriking even more! They have similar Velvet Underground riffs and Pavement melodies but angrier, political punk rock vocals. Awesome! Birdstriking is touring the U.S. all month and into July, so you should grab a chance to see them if you can before they had back to Beijing.

Tucked between the band and the Oriental windows in the photo below is Nate Pottker. He’s an audio producer, visual artist, musician himself, and good friend, and he has been a big part of Save Music in Chinatown since the very beginning. He does whatever he can to help, and at the Grand Star he helped to tame the room’s bare-bones sound.

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Did I mention that the Grand Star is a really cool location? It is not only one building over from Madame Wong’s and the Hong Kong Cafe, but the vibe of the upstairs room with a low ceiling and loud noise recalls the punk days of old, too. I couldn’t resist taking a photo in front of the old Hong Kong Cafe with Lisa from Frontier Records and Tony from Adolescents.

That’s DJ Loud Panda (Ricky Maymi from the Brain Jonestown Massacre) in the cowboy hat. He loves Chinese music to death and is responsible for getting so many up-and-coming, out-of-their-minds underground bands from Beijing to the U.S. We couldn’t have had Birdstriking, Chui Wan, or Deadly Cradle Death play our Chinatown show without his help.

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After Birdstriking played, Liu from Chui Wan approached me with a Dengue Fever cassette and asked me to introduce him to the band. It turns out he’s a huge fan of theirs, so I dragged him around the club and got all of the members to sign it. Yet as the Dengue Fever began their set, the Chinese bands were packing up their gear and rushing off to San Francisco. What a bummer, but Liu seemed stoked just to be there.

We’ve had some badass lineups at Save Music in Chinatown shows featuring legendary bands that played the Hong Kong Cafe in the ’70s and ’80s. Having underground musicians from China in Chinatown is totally cool for a completely different reason, but still perfectly fits the idea of underdogs coming together through a subculture and building a community.

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I still can’t believe Dengue Fever played our little show. I mean, they play much bigger venues and seem to be on NPR every other week, but seeing the six-member band cram onto to our modest stage and playing without monitors was rad. It was like seeing them play a house party or basement show with a lot of feedback, sweat, and family vibe. Amazing.

Although the band had donated as signed record to raffle off at one of our previous shows, I never dared to ask if they would actually play for us. But my friend Josh, who manages Dengue Fever, brought up the idea and how could I say no? And then it actually happened.

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Before the set started, bassist Senon talked a little bit about the importance of music education and how playing music benefits people of all ages, and then added that I wrote the first piece and took the first photos of Dengue Fever when they started. How cool is it to have been friends since then, witness the band not only remain intact but evolve so far, and then see them play our show?

I also love how the Castelar kids who attend our shows not only benefit from the dough raised that goes toward music eduction, but also get to see awesome bands like Dengue Fever, Birdstriking, Chui Wan, and Deadly Cradle Death carry their own gear up the stairs, set up their stuff, and play in small rooms. They see that music isn’t just played at the Hollywood Bowl or something that pop stars do. Hopefully, they’ll be inspired by the DIY aspects too. And see that the lamest of parents can put together a cool show!

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Thanks to everyone who attended, played, donated raffle goodies, contributed to the bake sale, spread the word, and helped make the show happen in any way. Thanks to Tony Quon of the Grand Star for giving us a new home as well Human Resources for giving us a great start. We couldn’t do it without everyone’s help.

All money that came in went straight to the cause, with the venues, bands, bake sakes, raffle goods, and everything else being donated to the Friends and Alumni of Castelar Elementary School, and through this year’s shows, we have been able to pay more than $10,000 of Castelar’s annual bill of $50,000 for music education. On top of that, and just as important in my opinion, we are raising awareness, getting people together, and building a scene. It would be rad if you joined us when we start again next school year.

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Did I mention that the shows are totally fun, too? Or that you can bring your family if they can handle it? Kids under 12 are free. Follow this blog or join the Facebook group page for information on upcoming shows…